Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

I finished this weekend Marcus Aurelius Meditations. Yes, this is the Emperor in the movie Gladiator. Since I have reading about Stoicism, watching videos and actually doing meditation, I was curious about MA’s writings. I have read about Epictetus so looked like a good follow up.

The intro of the book is quite good. Give you a lot of background about MA, his time and his “meditations” itself. To be honest, I gathered more from the intro that the book itself. The meditations are divided in 12 books but doesnt looks like there is a plot. I felt that MA was repeating his stoicism mantra in all books.

I was surprised about his very stoicism believe with insisting points about anything outside your soul, it is something you can’t control and it is going to perish sooner or latter. You should care only about your reasoning and following the “rational” nature.

Any pain, insult, feeling is is something external and if it affects you is because you are not following the human nature. Dont look for fame, fortune, etc. At the end, the atoms of our body will go back to the nature, the source. And this is for everybody.

And very interesting, he is very clear in the existence of a god and there is a reason for everything.

In summary, I am taking several points of stoicism in my own believe. It fits in my core values and find it useful. Like meditation itself.


Just finished reading this book. I wanted to follow up with more info about how to improve my concentration and attention after “Deep Work”. This book is more dense. I liked the first part as there was a strong focus in the person’s psychology for distraction. We have our internal and external triggers that push us to traction (what we have to do) or distraction, and we need to identify those triggers. We need to master our internal triggers and hack back the external ones (email, app notifications, etc). We need to make time for traction and prevent distraction. And a simple timetable can give you visibility to where you are “spending” your time. Even more, you can adjust the timetable to be aligned with your values. I see connections with meditation and that works for me.

And the attention needs to start with ourselves. Then the important people around us and finally work.

I enjoyed the examples of companies like Slack to help employees to disconnect and be productive. And how important is “psychological safety” in a team..

Nowadays it is the social media the evil for our lack of attention. But in the past we have had others like television, video games, radios, books, etc. It seems Socrates complained about the written word. So there is nothing new. I liked the example of Tantalus’ curse. And now I understand the curse. He was trying to reach for things that he didnt actually need.

This is a nice screensaver:

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need do”

And at the end there is a section for kids that I think it is very useful and original.

In summary, I have enjoyed the book and gives me more reasons to carry on my goal of better focus ( deep work / indistractable).

I hope I re-read this book at some time in the future.

Stoicism: How To Be Free

I finished this short book about Stoicism. As I have been meditating for over a year, I am interested in ways to keep learning and improving my quality/health of mind. I like feeling fit in my body, and my mind.

After watching some short videos about Stoicism, I liked the ideas and felt they can fit in my way of thinking.

Most of the times, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius are the most common figures mentioned about Stoicism so I tried something written from them.

I went to the “How To Be Free” as the main source from Epictetus. I learned that he was a Greek born slave from the Roman times who earned his freedom and became a philosopher. Who more entitled to write about freedom that a slave? And I didn’t know that the stoicism had started some centuries earlier, around 300BC in Greece. As well, the “Encheiridion” was actually written by Arrian (I read a book about Alexander The Great and didnt know about his philosophy side) that was one student of Epictetus.

The book centres in what it is under our control and what is not. Things that we control are just inside us, and they are the ones that makes free (and content). As soon as you start to give away that control to outside things, you are doomed to suffering. It can be brutal in some cases. If a love one dies, it is not in your control that event, so you shouldn’t bee affected, just accept that is part of nature. Nature is nature and is not bound to our will. That reminds me too Buddhism too.

I like this philosophical approach, it matches well with me. In the world where we live with so much attention to the outside, it is good to get back to basics. We should be happy/content how we are, if we dont hurt anybody/anything and we life in harmony with nature. Suffering is part of life and we shouldn’t sell our freedom to external factors. Somebody insult you? Somebody has done something bad to you? Things are not going according your wishes? These are timeless sources of suffering and we had people already talking about this and providing guidance for a couple of millenniums. And I think we haven’t learned much apart from taking the wrong approach: take this pill, buy this, be like that person, etc etc

There is so much we can do for ourselves by ourselves. Why schools don’t teach more philosophical thinking? When I was in high school we had a subject about Philosophy that was mandatory to get access to University. But at the end of the day, they prepare you to pass an exam. Not to learn. How important is a good teacher…

Keep hungry, keep learning, keep applying, repeat.

Depression Economics

I finished reading this book from Paul Krugman. I have really enjoyed it. It is short book and got me hooked. And it is much more easier to read the Keynes book… that was proper hardcore. He explains the crisis we have seen in XIX and XX in a way that you dont need to be economist.

It is really interesting the connections of the economic crisis globally and how complex it is getting everything. It seems the only power that the governments have is print money and play with the interest rates. And it is clear that there is no a perfect system and we will carry on seeing crisis like this. There were some big figures in the economic world that said there will not be more macro economical crisis anymore. And it is funny how the IFM hasn’t followed the practices to improve economies from countries in crisis, they have made things worse.

The baby setting Co-Op is a great example that is used in several parts of the book so explain the type of crisis in that scenario. Really useful.

And seems he is honest, he doesnt have the explanations for all crisis. For example for the Asia crisis of the late 90s, he uses the psychological concept that investors put all countries is Asia in the same basket and treated some countries with stronger economies like weakest one.

And Keynes is mentioned several times. It is clear he was great (although I didnt understand much from his book).

It is clear that things that behave like a bank and they are not bank, they should play by the same rules to protect consumers and avoid crisis like the 2008.

And how important is the confidence. Even well run banks can go down extremely easy when there is a “run on the bank” (people want to take the money out of the bank). It is like a domino effect.

As in Mandelbrot book, it is impossible to foresee the economy long run… And Keynes says that in the long run we are dead.

Enjoy the moment.

Deep Work

I have just finished “Deep Work” from Cal Newport. For a long time I have believed that multitasking is the best thing to be productive but with the years passing by I realised that like a computer, context switching is very expensive on me. You can’t really concentrate in some demanding thing and then try to be on top of small things and interrupted by everybody. I am happy that I am not use social media but still at work I am easily distracted by people demands, emails, etc.

And I am pretty sure that It is not just me. Most people suffer this. And to be honest, I want to improve, I want to make a more meaningful job with my time. And life (like Winifred Gallagher) Cal’s examples (himself and others) are really good. I liked quite a lot the one regarding Daniel Kilov and how to memorize a deck of cards. I think this is a good exercise to execute deep concentration in small chunks of time, that is actually the most probably outcome in (most people) normal day.

You can do it. But you need to work hard for it. The society, working environment and yourself are not going to make it easy.

I think with the lockdown period, it is a good moment to put these techniques in practice.

I need to pay less attention to the emails and slack. I dont have to be the quickest answering something… (that is so good for your ego….) I need to really prioritize my working hours and tasks to focus on with a time frame. I need to make myself accountable, stop blaming somebody else. And communicate, make my peers that I will focus in things I will not answer immediately (if you are my CTO, maybe not 🙂 And as a manager, make my team members better: make them to take more ownership so they can deal with problems by themselves. And schedule times of the day to check emails and/or attend meetings.

One thing I have done, it is to put a pink sticker close to my screen saying “ONE THING AT EACH TIME”. I did this before reading the book as a reminder from a speech at work of a brilliant guy in his last day. And he said he learned that sentence from our CTO. That got burned in my mind. I have used it mainly from troubleshooting. It has been a critical tool that I have applied successfully many times since then. But I can be applied to more things as “Deep Work”

All very nice words. Let’s make it happen.


I have finished reading this book about Kaizen. Many years ago I heard the term Kaizen for the superior productivity in Japan, mainly from Toyota as the world’s number one car producer. Somehow, I bought this used copy to learn about it.

First, I noticed the book was printed in 1986… I realised I rarely read “technical” stuff so “old”.

The first surprise was that it seems the concept of quality control was actually brought by USA to post WWII Japan. The two main people were W E Deming and J M Juran.

It is interesting that Japan was very eager to learn the productivity secrets from USA and at the end, they created their on version.

I like the focus in people. They need to be engaged and feel part of something. At the end of the day, everybody has to push together to get to great results. As well, it seems key the achievement of small changes and not massive ones. They set for long-term goals, mainly for customer satisfaction that is not just the person who buys the product. It is not all about profits. It seems the profits will come as a by-product (reduce cost, increase customer satisfaction, more sells -> more profits). So the vision is product-oriented instead of result-oriented.

The point that “if you dont have problems, how you can improve?!” is so true.

And one slogan to measure how good is your product: “would you buy what you are producing?”

I can see many concepts are already in place in technology. The “Kambam” board, the constant search for small improvements, etc. If you think devops culture is something really modern, doesn’t look like that.

In general, the approach is quite different from the Western world and has been successful. But the book mentions that you need the innovation side for keep improving. So again, as life, you need balance.

And at the end, Kaizen becomes like a way of life. Or it is like I see it.

I am curious how the author would see Kaizen and Japan nowadays.


I am reading The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money of John Maynard Keynes. The intro is really good and give you a good glimpse of Keynes’ life. The book itself is quite hard for me to digest. It is not my field but I am courius about Economics/Finance. One day, I would like to understand how money really works…. I think I bought the book after references from other books from Yanis Varoufakis.

Things I have learned he was against the Treaty of Versailles as the conditions over Germany were too abusive and that could cause an economic disaster for future generations. Well, you have created the easiest scenario for a crazy guy to play with the feelings of a proud nation to raise and get back what it was theirs…. Yeah, very simplify, but it works in my head. He wrote about it in “Consequences of the Peace”.

I think we have seen similar scenarios (without war involved thanks x (x = choose your god’s religion)) with Greece and Argentina.

Then after WWII, he helped to create the “International Monetary Fund” and “World Bank”. And attended Bretton Woods Conference. One of the important points of that conference was the fix rate gold/dollar and the lack of banking crisis as a consequence of this agreement. As well, I think the book from “The Signal and the Noise” says that during this conference, the American president couldnt understand Keynes ideas as he couldnt explain them easily. That conference is important because when the deal was cancelled in 1971 it caused some interesting economic shocks (books from Varoufakis are good) as countries couldn’t change dollar/gold as before and the banking crisis started to roll.

As per my understaning, Keynes believed that economic balance (mainly low unemployment) was the basic of a peaceful world. If you have most of your needs satisfied, I dont think you will pick your rifle whenever a lunatic tells you to do so.

As well, he was pro-European…. look now, we are in Brexit times…

…look now… it seems unemployment is going to skyrocket all around the world…. and we have too many dumb presidents in too powerful countries…. look now… how far right has been gathering support in the last years….

All the ingredientes for the cocktel of W..


Today I Learned. Why are we bothering writing things in a blog?

It is a drop in the ocean called Internet but I believe in it. That is the key.

And somehow it can helps us to discover the signal from the noise

Maybe not totally related to this post, but I think you can find that book interesting.

Are we making noise?


Today I’ve received a copy of Serious Cryptography and jumped straight ahead to Chapter 12 talking about Elliptic Curves. I’m more or less aware of how RSA works, but was intruigued for a few years now about how criptography was able to achieve same security capabilities with more efficiency while dealing with less information.

Basically that is a different kind of beast based on the hard it is to retrieve the exponent from a discrete logarithm, instead of rely on the factorization of a number composed from two large primes as it is with RSA. As the size of the numbers are much lower with the same hardness to attack, the keys involved are also way smaller.

Elliptic Curve comes after the properties of the equation that the field of work is based, an equation of the curve of the type y^2=x^3 + ax + b where a and b are pre-cooked parameters that must be carefully chosen to avoid security risks.

In fact, there are two main curves used nowadays. One are a family of curves that the NIST approved, the most famous known as P-256, being the most commonly used in the industry, but also had some critisism because those a and b params in the equation were defined by the NSA and the generation is not completely publicly known. Therefore it could have potentially unknown pre-cooked attacks, althought based on the book, the general consensus by the experts is that there is no problem.

The second one is the curve generated by Daniel J. Bernstein that have pretty much the security of the NIST one and arguabilly a bit more of performance speed. It is called Curve25519 because the (discrete) field it works on is based on the prime number 2^255-19, having a=486662 and b=x .